The Mother of Waters
An excerpt from The Tales of Narit Haneo: “A Collection”
From this country I leave gladly. Its libations remind me of something I saw many years ago, in the deepest jungle: drinking of a juice I had never before seen, taken from a particular vine which grows only in the deepest parts of the jungle. Its pungent odor seemed to me poisonous, yet the villagers drank deeply of it, as they danced to rhythms I could not follow no matter how hard I tried, and throwing their head back as though pulled by strings I could not see. The Village of Youth was what they called it, and I did not learn from whence that name came.
Their eyes did not blink, even as they kicked up the dust as they danced frantically. And they chanted in unison—more than in unison, in one voice, as though someone spoke through them. The same expression they all wore, identical in the grimace and tone as the spoke. And the eyes! Their eyes could not stand still. But I do not speak of mere saccadic movement; this was far too gross. I shiver even now as I think of it. For while their movements were merely unnerving, later that night I saw something which made me leave the very next day.
These villagers, they called their drink “sunlight”, even though it was a deep red, and, in my recollection, as thick as cold blood. I will say my memory is a bit muddled, and it is perhaps what I saw later that colors my memories. The villagers also talked much of shadows on a cave and of the Rite of the Dawn before the festival. After they began their dancing they spoke not much at all that I could understand. Perhaps much was said in their movements, in their glossolalia of the evening, though I do not like to speculate what they said amongst each other that night.
It was a festival of incoherent music, and all were in a frenzy, as though they could not contain themselves. Some feet bled as they danced, and a few of the thinner ones had fallen aside, unable to keep up with the tempo which I still could not hear. In the center of their village two danced, a young woman and another who wore a grotesque mask, with wide eyes and a grinning mouth that spanned from ear to ear. All seemed normal, as normal as anything in that accursed village, until the masked one removed their mask—for underneath the mask lay a face identical to that of the mask. A misshapen mouth in everlasting grin, and eyes that danced. The unmasked one tore the other dancer from limb to limb and the crowd cried and danced to the beat that they all seemed to watch, as their eyes moved in unison.
I leave this country gladly indeed, for I do not like the way they dance at night, and I do not like that I cannot follow easily the beats of their drunken songs.
- Narit, pg. 174-175